I’m not going to write about what everyone else is writing about today. You might be expecting me to, what with my being a New Yorker and an Afghanistan veteran. But no dice, pubic lice! There is more than enough being written today about the 9/11 anniversary. Some of it is wonderful, thoughtful, and poignant. Most of it is insipid social media bullshit, typically followed by sets of my absolutely least favorite symbol in the whole wide keyboard.
As an entirely unknown humor writer on the Internet, I’d rather not try to compete with those who really have something to say today because their stories should not be cheapened. And I’d rather not think about the countless people who are using today to type “neverforget” as one word because I hate them. So I’m going to take this 13th anniversary and write about something that is damn near miraculous. An experience so rare that it should shock your genitals into your socks. Ones you’re not even wearing. That’s right, folks: I found a video game I actually like.
Yes, among the multitudes of repetitive crap that are most videos games, I found a rare nugget of goodness within the highly successful (but mostly ho-hum, in my opinion) Assassin’s Creed series. And it’s the one with motherfucking pirates. Because of course it is.
To those of you familiar with the games in this series as well as my angry laments about the flaws of most video games (so no one, probably), this may seem an odd endorsement. Those games are known for having such flaws in spades. Repetitive missions, singular solutions to tasks, and tons of jumping/climbing. Black Flag is certainly not innocent on these counts, and the seemingly endless cycle of “talk to this character about bad guy/follow bad guy without being seen/kill bad guy from a tree or near shrubbery” can get a bit dull. Hell, I got bored just writing it.
But that’s just the main storyline, which only comprises, at most, a few hours worth of gameplay if you barrel through it. It even has solid chunks of mild fun, despite it’s faults. But that’s not what makes it great. The other twenty-plus hours of the game are nothing but hot, saucy badassery. Here’s why:
Scope – This game is goddamn huge. The map encompasses a vast portion of the Caribbean, from South Florida down to the Jamaica (not to mention a sole fortress you can visit on the west coast of Africa). There are dozens of locations to discover and dozens more tiny, uncharted islands to find treasure and supplies on.
But it’s not just the size, it’s the variety of shit you can find and do. A large world in itself can get monotonous as hell, even in otherwise fun games, if it’s all the same (looking at you, Fallout 3). Black Flag mixes it up. You can plunder Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, hunt white whales off Cuba, and ransack a burning Spanish galleon in the Florida Keys before it explodes. You can even go diving on sunken wrecks to bring up many a doubloon from the briny while trying to avoid fist-fighting a shark.
Flexibility – While the majority of the storyline missions are, as I lamented, somewhat straightforward, the side missions are almost all wide open in terms of how you can complete them. If, for example, you accept a contract to hunt a merciless privateer hiding on an island nearby, you can go after him stealthily if you like. Creep through the underbrush, wait patiently in a tree, and hang him with a blowgun dart attached to a rope after several hours of stalking. Or you can follow the Mooney Method (TM) by firing a brace of pistols into the nearest faces once you reach shore and then hacking everyone else to pieces. There are probably other options, but mine is the best.
Naval Combat – Hands down, the best parts of the game all happen at sea. This shit is crazy-go-nuts fun. There are plenty of missions, both main and other, that put you at the wheel of your mighty ship (well, at first it’s kinda dinky, but you can upgrade it throughout the game to be badass destroyer of hopes and bloodener of the seas), the Jackdaw, and toe-to-toe with a whole mess of other vessels out there. Not to mention a number of coastal forts you can bombard and then take over. You can trade broadside volleys, blast your foes with mortars from afar, fire chainshot to get them all out of whack, or just straight up ram some bitches. Oh, and fire barrels.
But suppose you crave more one-on-one ass-kicking of the stabby-stab in the facey-face variety? Well, you can quit your insufferable bitching, you terrible nag! God how I hate you! Once you incapacitate an enemy ship, you can choose to sink her and collect half her cargo. Or you can board it. As in no-fooling swing on a rope and jump off to knife the enemy captain in mid-air and then blow up the powder reserves (or one or more of the several semi-randomized objectives you have to complete to capture the ship). Then you get all the cargo. So much fun. So much cargo.
Sea Shanties – I shouldn’t have to explain why this is awesome, but I will for all the poor, poor fools out there who don’t have a playlist of such songs on their iPhone or Zune or whatever you hillbillies have. Gramophone? Sea shanties are awesome and make me want to buy a sailboat. And while you’re sailing your ship on the sea, traveling between missions, exploring, or just looking for prize ships to hunt, your crew will sing ’em. They will heartily belt out one of a number of songs (you can collect more throughout the game) as you cruise through the beautifully rendered world. It’s awesome. I don’t know why I’m still explaining this to you. You can’t possibly be that much of a fool.
Pretty bitching, right? Glad you agree, because I’d hate to have to loathe you more than the base level at which I loathe most people. And, if you ask me, that all adds up to a hoot of a good time on the ol’ Box o’ X, me trumps. It also has a DLC that gives you several hours worth of hacking French slavers to death with a machete. Which is just a spoonful of lovely and what I’ll be doing to wind down this tragic anniversary. I, in turn, urge you all to find something that makes you happy today, whatever that may be. Even if it’s not being a pirate. Because this is America, and the pursuit of happiness is our thing. But don’t hashtag about it, because that’s the thing for utterly detestable douchefucks.
G’night, ye scurvy blaggards! May Davy Jones nay call in his debts on ye afore buying me a drink!